Woodsongs Kids set to debut, seeking new talent

The WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, an all-volunteer-run non-profit Kentucky-based organization that is a worldwide multimedia celebration of grassroots music, is expanding. Filmed in front of a live audience, the one-hour musical conversation focusing on artists and their music has always featured aspiring young musicians in a segment called WoodSongs Kids. That segment is now being expanded into its own separate program to solely spotlight talented youth from across the nation.

Michael Johnathon (folksinger and host) is the brainchild behind the WoodSongs programs that first began in 1998. He explained the creation of its spin-off, WoodSongs Kids.

“America needs its spirit of its front porch more than ever. The music that built rural America and its future is in the kids. On every broadcast of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, we’ve had a kid on every show. It is our most popular segment. So we decided to spin-off a TV series, WoodSongs Kids. It’s Mr. Rogers meets the Grand Ole Opry.”

On the new show, Johnathon has the perfect co-host, his eight-year-old daughter, Makayla.

“Don’t look for perfection (in the show), look for joy,” the American folk singer-songwriter, producer, author, and playwright explained. “Kids remind us of what is really important. Music and the arts are joyful expressions portrayed by kids. It is awe-inspiring how good they are.”

The pilot has already been filmed, and on October 10, the first two episodes of the new 30 minute TV series for Public Broadcasting will be recorded. 

“PBS series is made up of 13 episodes (per season),” Johnathon outlined. “We’re doing it in between WoodSongs broadcasts.”

The tapings are held on Monday evenings at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington, KY. Johnathon is actively seeking young talent to feature on the show.

“We want every parent and guardian to send a YouTube clip. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be recorded on their cell phone,” he stressed. 

Clips of youth performances may be sent to: radio@woodsongs.com.

Working with the University of Kentucky, WoodSongs broadcasts with lesson plans are available for free for middle and high schools. The same will be true with WoodSongs Kids for use in elementary and middle school classrooms.

“Students get to see top shelf performers,” Johnathon conveyed.

Two aspiring musical artists who appeared on the pilot for WoodSongs Kids expressed their gratitude for their involvement.

Wyatt Ellis, 13, from Maryville, TN, shared, “If you’re a fan of the regular segment of WoodSongs Kids you will remember Michael invited Sierra Hull to jam with Sam Bush as the first WoodSongs Kids 20 years ago. Earlier this year I joined my hero Sierra on the radio show segment and it was a full circle moment for Michael, Sierra, and myself. I was so excited to hear about the next chapter of the series and honored to be the first guest featured on the television series test pilot just like Sierra so many years ago!”

Phoebe White, 12, of London, KY says…

“I have performed on the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour many times over the past four years and was super excited to be invited to perform on the very first Woodsongs Kids Show! Michael Johnathon does a fantastic job hosting the show and is so much fun to work with! I like that he gives kids a chance to showcase their talents just like the adults do. He doesn’t talk down to us. He treats us all the same and is very respectful to work with.

I’m very happy Michael Johnathon invited me to be a Woodsongs Kid. It is a unique show that is all volunteer-run by some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet! I think it will be great to see all the talented kids from all over the world that come to be a part of the show. Through Woodsongs, Michael has introduced me to lots of wonderful people such as Riders in the Sky, Suzy Bogguss, Rhonda Vincent, John Cowan, and many others. He also produced and arranged my new album called UnXpected that I recorded in Nashville with Riders in the Sky, and in Lexington, KY with the McLain Family Band. I think all of that happened because of Woodsongs and I am very grateful to be a part of this special program.”

Johnathon concluded, “Music is color blind. It has no race. No politics. It’s made up of homes, hometowns, and neighbors. It’s rural, it’s urban, it’s all of it. America needs the spirit of the front porch.”

Today’s up and coming musicians convey that message. Record those youth performing and submit them as soon as possible to radio@woodsongs.com.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.